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Podcasts are an incredible learning resource that should not be overlooked in your quest to master the ins and outs of music composition and professional songwriting. With such a wealth of podcasts out there, there’s no limit to what you can learn, even passively, in your spare time riding on the subway, jogging, or driving around in your tour van.
We’ve been thinking a lot about music education podcasts lately since we here at Soundfly just launched our own podcast called “Themes and Variation.” In it, we bring musicians and music lovers together to break down meaningful songs in their lives with a common theme. If you’d like to check it out, listen to Episode 1 right here on Flypaper, or click over to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher to subscribe.
And now, without further ado, here’s our list of the 11 best podcasts for deepening your knowledge and understanding of music theory concepts. Enjoy!
1) Art of Composing Podcast
Composing, creativity, theory. Brought to us by Jon Brantingham, the Art of Composing Podcast gives you everything you need “to take your composing, knowledge of music theory, and creativity to the next level!” Concise and super knowledgeable, this is a great place to start.
2) The Labyrinth of Music Theory Podcast
The Labyrinth of Music Theory is a tour through the tangled mazes of composition, music theory, computer music, ethnomusicology, acoustics, synthesis, and related subjects of interest to music lovers and music-makers alike. It includes both a fresh look at theoretical ideas from a global, first-principles perspective, and practical advice about composition and conceptual music, made with or without computers.
3) Music Student 101
One of the big players in the music theory podcast world, and coming highly recommended from us at Soundfly, is Music Student 101. The nice thing about this podcast is that it gets gradually harder. The beginning episodes cover some pretty easy topics — in episode 15 we’re looking at inversions and figured bass — and then by episode 46 we’re delving into the overtone series! I really like this podcast, too, because it touches on other important theoretical aspects of music seemingly not covered elsewhere; such as episode 51, about on-stage production tech, and episode 57, on instrument care.
4) Song Appeal
Song Appeal is a podcast written and recorded by Flypaper’s own Hunter Farris. The tagline for this series of episodes asks “Why do we like the music we like?” Farris starts with this question and/or variants of it to delve into topics like why sad music is so enjoyable to listen to, or why certain music, like the Twilight Zone theme, sounds scary. It is as much about music theory as it is about human expression and our emotional response to sound and music.
5) The Musicality Podcast
This one is mega. With over 130 episodes, The Musicality Podcast literally touches on everything… and in some depth! Coming to you as a mix of interviews and teaching materials, the creators of The Musicality Podcast are passionate hosts and they undeniably know their stuff!
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6) Switched on Pop
Here’s a podcast by two music theory majors (musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding) who pull analytical interpretations out of trending pop music. Even if you’re not into pop, the hosts offer super interesting explanations as to what’s going on just beneath the surface of the music you hear every day. Switched on Pop is about how popular music functions, what makes a hit song, and what its place is in culture at any given moment. They help listeners find “a-ha” moments in the music, and they’ll make you laugh, dance, and ask ridiculous questions about the songs we too often take for granted.
7) Hack Music Theory
I really like this one. It’s varied and extensive — and it’s got everything from an episode on how to write a Christmas song to why you need to spell music with numbers. Hack Music Theory is taught by award-winning music lecturer Ray Harmony and his once-protégé, now-wife Kate Harmony. Ray has been teaching music theory for 24 years, and along the way he’s made music with Serj Tankian (System of a Down), Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), and Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad), among others.
8) Hype Harmony
This one’s got some real quirkiness about it! The niche topics that get discussed here are both common and widely used, yet often misunderstood. This one will have you intrigued and help you get ahead of the game, no matter what style of music you make. The description on the Hype Harmony website reads: “Come alongside your host, Jeremiah Tabb, as we navigate the dangerous waters of music theory! Through descriptive lessons, real-time audio examples, and interviews with successful musicians of all kinds, anybody can learn the secrets of music.”
9) The Bollywood Theory
This podcast is cool. If you’re a global listener, like me, and you crave learning about new South Asian music and the world of Bollywood, specifically (I mean who doesn’t!), then check out The Bollywood Theory! To be honest, much of what’s discussed here is going to be useful for whatever genre of music you make, but just listening for the sake of becoming more aware of the incredible popular music coming out of India is reason enough. There’s some really enthusiastic and knowledgeable personalities on here, as well. I highly recommend it!
10) Guitar Music Theory
This podcast is seriously practical, and for the many, many guitar players out there eager to build their skills and hone their chops, the Guitar Music Theory podcast is going to be seriously useful. It includes free audio guitar lessons, in-depth episodes on scales, chords, modes, and getting around the fret board. There are a lot of guitar theory podcasts out there, but so far this is the best I’ve found!
11) The DrumMantra
Oh my, we’re ending this list on a real winner. This podcast focuses on the world of drumming, but unlike most drummer-centric content, the wisdom that host Rich Stitzel imparts is priceless to any musician. The DrumMantra Podcast is all about going deeper in your practice of music and rhythm. Its goal is to advance every listener’s confidence, insight, and motivation through discussions on topics like approaches to practice, rhythmic concepts, technique, theory, creativity, gear, and even the music business. Stitzel is a veteran drummer, author, and educator with nearly 30 years of professional experience as a full-time musician.
Shameless Plug) Themes and Variation
Once again, go ahead and check out Soundfly’s new podcast, “Themes and Variation,” for an entertaining and educational, and not to mention deeply nostalgic, set of conversations between musicians, composers, producers, engineers, and music lovers breaking down songs relating to common themes.
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